What’s wrong with wanting to lose weight? Nothing! But food restriction wasn’t the answer for me. I’ve identified 10 healthy reasons to quit dieting.
1. Diets don’t work.
We’ve proved we can follow a diet plan and lose weight. Again and again. We’ve dieted for years. If food restriction is the solution to overweight, why are we still dieting?
2. Diets teach us to eat by numbers.
Counting, measuring, and/or weighing prescribed diet portions taught me to evaluate food in terms of numbers, instead of asking
- will this food satisfy me?
- how will it taste?
- how long will it take me to prepare it?
- how will I feel after eating it (energized, sluggish, jittery?)
- which nutrients will it provide?
- does it cost more than other foods with the same nutrients?
- how plentiful is it?
- where is it grown?
- is it in season?
- how much processing did it require?
3. Diets train us to suppress our natural instincts.
Food restriction conditions us to ignore and override our body’s signals so that we forget we have them and don’t trust them anymore. Convinced the new diet would succeed where others had failed, I ignored hunger pangs, thirst, nausea, headache, jitters—most everything my body was telling me.
4. Diets lead to food obsession.
While I was dieting, my world seemed to revolve around the diet. I spent thousands of non-eating hours analyzing the foods I could and couldn’t have, dreaming about favorites, and planning what I’d eat first when released from diet prison.
5. Diets encourage bingeing.
Restricting calories, carbs, and fats made me so hungry I got to the point where I’d forget my motivation, give up, and eat everything in sight while zoning out. Stuffed, I’d start the diet again.
6. Diets can’t do for us what our bodies are built to do.
A food list can’t tell us a thing about the state of our stomachs, but the human body can. It comes with sensors to detect food levels and to signal us when we’re full. When I gave up dieting, my signals were weak. No, make that non-existent!
Fortunately, we can learn to identify hunger and fullness signals. Eating with awareness of our physical feelings trains us to connect them with the quantity and type of food we ate, e.g. how eating a spinach salad makes us feel compared to eating a grilled cheese sandwich, a cinnamon roll, half a pizza, a cup of black bean soup, or a large order of fries. When we become experts on the feelings we like to have at the end of a meal, we can make unemotional decisions about what to eat and when to stop eating. But it may take a while to make a habit of eating with awareness.
7. Diets try to “fix what ain’t broken.”
Our bodies come in various sizes and shapes. We don’t need the media—diet companies, magazines, or movies—to label our hips, thighs, midriffs, or upper arms as flaws or to say one particular shape is ideal. The desire to change what ads called “defects” when I was already slender made me resort to dieting instead of accepting my body type as normal.
8. Diets give us unrealistic goals.
“This diet will make you lose 10 lbs a week!” Not much food in that one. My goal while dieting was: “Today, I will starve myself.” Compare that to my current goal: “Today, I will eat what I want to eat—with awareness. That is, I’ll ask myself, “How hungry am I?”1 The second part of the goal is: “I’ll make a selection, savor the food as I eat it, feel its effects, and stop when I’m full.” That’s it, in terms of eating. I count it as one of several realistic and important goals, such as, “Today, I will try to encourage someone.”
9. Diets make us gain weight.
Although I lost 10, 20, 30, 40 lbs and reached my “ideal weight” several times, I always regained what I’d lost—plus another 5 lbs—as most dieters do. Whenever I’m enticed by a new diet these days, I say, “Wait a second, Norma. How much weight do you want to gain?”
10. Diets make us feel bad.
The lose-and-gain-it-back roller coaster ride is no fun. But does getting off the roller coaster mean giving up on being healthy? No way! To quit dieting means to return to natural or intuitive eating2—one of the joys of human experience.
Listening to what our bodies tell us can only make us healthier. No food lists. No counting, weighing, or obsessing. There’s so much more to life.